The nonprofit has more than doubled its size from its previous home.
The doors of the Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch are now open in Myakka City, but board members of the nonprofit know work still needs to be done.
President Deanna Murchie and Vice President Susan Giroux walked the grounds, pointing to improvements needed in the next two months so Manatee County can fully clear the nonprofit to go into operation.
The shelter currently is operating on a temporary permit that becomes permanent if certain landscaping directives are met.
Murchie and Giroux pointed out a line of Brazilian Pepper plants that needed to be removed and they noted volunteers are set to plant 16 30-gallon oak trees and three magnolia trees. Viburnums (shrubs) will be planted on the property to act as a buffer to the neighbors.
The good news for the two nonprofit executives is the cats and dogs are starting to arrive.
It caps a long process for the shelter, which came into existence in 2010. Original board member Debbie Rubin provided a temporary site for the shelter until Mark Gellner allowed the Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch to use his commercial property in the Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park free of charge.
After seven years at Gellner's Stanley Steemer location in Lakewood Ranch, it was apparent the Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch had outgrown its facility while Gellner's business was expanding as well. The nonprofit began looking for a home early in 2017.
The Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch used a small space, enough for about five dogs, at Woofdorf Astoria boarding facility in Lakewood Ranch from 2017 until this month. All other animals were kept by foster families.
Murchie, with her husband, Tunney, found and purchased the new 5.6-acre site at 26920 Gopher Hill Road, Myakka City for $449,000 in September, 2018. It ended a 16-month search.
"I saw the property on the listing and it had a house I thought could be used for our administration," Murchie said. "The other building was new and sturdy structurally. And there was so much we could do with the property."
Murchie had tried to find a property in Lakewood Ranch with no luck.
"At first I was kind of worried," Murchie said. "There were three properties available in Lakewood Ranch that would work and we couldn't afford them, not unless we wanted to spend 10 years gathering funds. It wasn't feasible in Lakewood Ranch. I also had been through the industrial areas and I couldn't find anything."
The board members decided to look at possibilities just outside Lakewood Ranch. They felt Myakka City was close enough.
"We are proud of our name," Giroux said.
Giroux said the property was even more attractive to the nonprofit because it had its own well and about 5,600 square foot of air conditioned spaced with the 3,500-square-foot building where the dogs would be housed along with the 2,100-square-foot administration building and home for the cats.
Giroux said over time, as funds become available, the shelter will add dog walking paths and an agility training course.
Conservatively, Giroux said the shelter would like to adopt out 200 dogs and 75 cats in the coming year.
The entire project cost $600,000. The dog shelter has 23 kennels, an isolation room, storage area and a shower area to bathe the dogs. The administration office just needed paint and countertops, along with some glass doors.
Hayley Harvey started in November as the shelter's one paid employee. She will serve at shelter manager.
Volunteers are being sought to work 1 1/2-hour shifts to care for the animals, work in the administration office or just to keep the facility clean. The 11 board members will fill as many shifts as possible until volunteers are found.
"We lead by example," Giroux said.